Credit: AstraZeneca

More AstraZeneca vaccine doses set to be delivered next month: DDC

The company “has signalled” that it will deliver 7.2 million doses of AstraZeneca to Thailand next month as the DDC has expressed the country’s need for more vaccines, said the DDC’s Director-General Dr. Opas Karnkawinphong

Dr. Opas Karnkawinphong elaborated over the weekend on the Covid-19 vaccine procurement plan for the rest of the year that the government still sticks with the plan to cover 50 million people or 70% of the population by this year with 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines. This is believed to help boost herd immunity in the country.

It has signed a contract with AstraZeneca for 61 million doses in total, China’s Sinovac for 30 million doses in addition, and Pfizer for another 30 million more doses, Dr. Opas said of the latest procurement arrangements, adding they altogether have exceeded the target of 100 million doses.

“Our mass vaccination still goes as planned as we have managed to accomplish the vaccine administration of 10 million doses a month with a combination of these vaccines,” said Dr. Opas, apparently trying to allaying public concerns over the government’s mass vaccination plan.

The government’s initial vaccination plan relied largely on the large proportion of AstraZeneca locally manufactured here by its partner, Siam Bioscience. According to the procurement plans early this year, AstraZeneca would deliver its locally manufactured vaccines to Thailand around 10 million doses each month, except for the first month of June which would see the vaccine delivery at six million doses. This would be 61 million doses in total.

The government’s initial Covid-19 vaccine procurement plan in late February. Credit: CCSA

The rest of the vaccines, around 37 million more doses, would be sought out from various manufacturers; five to 20 million doses from Pfizer, and five to 10 million doses each from Sinovac, Sputnik V, and Johnson & Johnson, according to the vaccine procurement plan endorsed by the Cabinet in May.

As explained by Dr. Opas, the government has received around five to six million doses a month on average from AstraZeneca so far. So,  it has got to seek other vaccines elsewhere so that it can meet a monthly target. That has resulted in the increasing proportions of the other vaccines especially Sinovac and Pfizer as such.

Dr. Opas said the two parties have to negotiate on the number of doses to be delivered month by month because when the contract was signed in last November, there were no actual vaccines produced yet. However, he stressed that under the contract, the company will deliver AstraZeneca following the country’s demands although its production capacity at a time will also be taken into account.

According to the records shown by the DDC, 1.5 additional doses of Sinovac, both from the Chinese government’s donations and the procurement, were administered along with over five million doses of AstraZeneca in June, when the government’s mass vaccination plan was kicked off.

Credit: DDC

In July, five million more doses of Sinovac were administered along with nearly seven million doses of AstraZeneca. And as of mid-August, seven million doses of Sinovac were administered along with three million doses or so of  AstraZeneca.

Over these three months, there have been other alternative and donated vaccines administered along, including five million doses of Sinopharm, and 1.5 million doses of the US donated Pfizer.

To try to keep the outbreak and its impacts under control, the government has recently shifted its strategy in response to the change in the composition of the vaccines, focusing more on the high-risk groups first, which are the elderly and those with underlying diseases. According to the DDC, 70% of these groups in the “Dark Red” zones will be covered by the government’s vaccines first, and 50% of them in other zones will also be targeted along.

According to the DDC’s records, 38.6% and 35.4% of the elderly people and those with underlying diseases, or 4.2 in 10.9 million people and 2.24 in 6.34 million people respectively, have received the first shot so far. And 4.2% and 6.7% of them, or over 450,000 and over 425,000 people, have received the second shot.

For the general public, 38.5% of them, or 11 in 28.6 million people, have received the first shot, and 11.9 % or 3.39 million have received the second shot.

As of August 20, 26.4 million doses have been administered; 12.32 million are Sinovac, 11.16 million AstraZeneca, and the rest are of the others. For September, Dr. Opas said the DDC has clearly expressed the country’s need for more vaccines to the company. It has responded to the need, with a signal that it would deliver 7.2 million doses of AstraZeneca, he said.

The fresh batch of 150,000 doses of AstraZeneca from Bhutan under the latest government’s Covid-19 vaccine “exchange” plan arrived on August 20. Credit: Public Health Ministry

The embattled AstraZeneca vaccine delivery plan

Dr. Opas remarks on the monthly delivery plan of AstraZeneca are not the first.

In late July, the respected director-general held a press conference twice to clarify the issue after being criticized over the Covid-19 mass vaccination and vaccine procurement plans, and after a leak of AstraZeneca’s letter dated June 25 addressing its delivery of “one-third supply” to Thailand.

He stressed that the parties had to negotiate about the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine on a monthly basis because the vaccines on demand had not yet been produced when the contract was signed. As a result, the parties concerned could not determine the exact number of doses to be delivered each month, and had to negotiate month by month as such, he said.

However, the delivery plan would proceed on a basis of the country’s demands and the company’s production capacity, Dr. Opas said. The contract did not address the vaccine doses for export, and the company just asked for the country’s support, urging it not to hinder the activity, Dr. Opas added.

Dr. Opas said the company had never disclosed its production capacity. According to the department’s estimate, the company’s production capacity should be around 15 million doses a month. If the delivery was set at one-third of the supply as expressed, the number of doses to be delivered a month would then be around five million doses at least, he said, suggesting the number of doses delivered in June.

On the official launch of its supply chain in Thailand on June 2, Jame Teague, Country President of AstraZeneca (Thailand) said; “Now that we are ready to deliver high-quality vaccine produced locally, we can help the Thai government achieve its goal of ensuring the effective vaccination of people in Thailand as quickly as possible.”

Aside from this note, the company had also elaborated on its future plans, saying the new supply chain which was established in partnership with Siam Bioscience was to support broad and equitable access to the vaccine in Southeast Asia.

AstraZeneca would deliver the first locally produced vaccine doses to the Ministry of Public Health in support of its mass vaccination program. Distribution to other Southeast Asian countries would commence in the coming weeks, the company noted. In the same press release, it then said, the vaccine would be ready for export to other Southeast Asian countries in July.

AstraZeneca has established a global supply network with 16 distinct supply chains and 25 manufacturing partners across more than 15 countries. Siam Bioscience is the only manufacturing site of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in Southeast Asia. The company said it would play a critical role in the supply to other Southeast Asian countries, helping to drive forward Thailand’s Healthcare Strategy of being a regional medical hub.

The company expressed its commitment to the global vaccine supply without profit. Upon the launch of its supply chain here, the company said it had supplied over 500 million doses to 168 countries. 

After the leak of the letter, the company reaffirmed its export plan on June 28 again, saying AstraZeneca would start exporting the vaccine in early July. It also said one-third of the local supply capacity had been reserved for use in Thailand, based on the country’s order of 61 million doses as an equitable share of the approximately 180 million doses that would ultimately be produced by Siam Bioscience.

The remaining two-thirds of the Thailand supply capacity would be distributed across contracting countries in the “wider Southeast Asian region”, the company said with no further details on a monthly delivery.

Dr, Opas, meanwhile, revealed the country’s next year plan of Covid-19 vaccine procurement, saying 120 million doses have been set as a target. They will be administered as booster doses and to additional groups including the youth, he said.

So far, the government has eyed on acquiring the new version from Pfizer and AstraZeneca if available, 50 million doses each. The new contracts, however, will have nothing to do with the current contracts as they will be dealt with separately, he said.

Credit: DDC

TheAstraZeneca vaccine procurement timeline

January 2020: The first case of Covid-19 in the country

March 25, 2020: The first emergency decree declaration (in effect on March 26)

April 22, 2020: The national vaccine committee approved the vaccine administration plan for the people

August 24, 2020: The Public Health Ministry signed in support of the technology transfer from AstraZeneca to the country so it can have local Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing

September 23, 2020: The Covid-19 vaccine procurement committee approved the vaccine procurement plan.

October 9 and 12, 2020: The Public Health Ministry signed and endorsed the National Vaccine Institute to procure Covid-19 vaccines for emergency use. There was no research on Covid-19 vaccines approved at that time to guarantee the manufacturing yet.

November 17, 2020: The Cabinet approved the vaccine procurement plan for the first batch of 26 million doses of AstraZeneca.

November 27, 2020: The three parties concerned; the company, the DDC, and the NVI sighed the contract.

January 5, 2020: The Cabinet acknowledged additional procurement of 35 more doses of AstraZeneca.

January 20, 2020: The FDA registered AstraZeneca for emergency use.

February 23, 2021: The Cabinet approved the revised contract to procured 35 more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

March 2, 2021: The Cabinet approved the budget for the additional procurement of AstraZeneca.

March 25, 2021: The DDC forwarded the revised contract to AstraZeneca Thailand.

April 24, 2021: The DDC sent a letter informing AstraZeneca of the country’s monthly demands for the vaccine; six million doses for June, and 10 million doses from July to November, and five million doses for December.

May 4, 2021:  The DDC received the signed contract back from AstraZeneca

June 1, 2021: The Cabinet approved the 61 million doses administration framework, which will run from June to December 2021.

Thailand witnessed its first million cumulative cases since the first round of the outbreak on Friday (1,009,710), before the first million cases since the third round in April was observed a day later (1,001,418).